Posted tagged ‘Will Jawando’

07.10.17 MoCo Politics: Endorsing Elrich & Grimes, plus early musings on the 30+ at-large candidates

July 10, 2017

Marc Elrich is running to be Montgomery County’s next executive to replace Ike Leggett. I have known Elrich since I moved to Maryland in 2000, as a friend, neighbor, and as a member of the Takoma Park City Council (where he served for 19 years) and then the Montgomery County Council (12 years). Elrich is the least ego-driven politician I have ever met. He is not enamored of seeing his name or face in lights or of power for its own sake, but rather gets out of bed every day in order to make a better world, especially for the underdogs. Elrich is also the least corrupted politician in Montgomery County, having consistently refused to take contributions from the politically dominant development industry. While he is able to meet respectfully with all players in county affairs, Elrich is the only member of the council who has consistently prioritized community needs over industry interests.

Further, Elrich is one of the most intelligent and informed public leaders we have. His encyclopedic knowledge of zoning, public education (he was a MCPS teacher for 17 years), and other arcana means he is as prepared to govern as anyone.  You can count on Marc Elrich to support anti-poverty programs, affordable housing, mass transit, quality of life, and the environment. Please join me in helping make Elrich our next county executive.

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County Council At-Large

Talk about crowded fields! Local activist Paul Bessel has been collecting the names of declared and interested candidates for the four Montgomery Council At-Large seats in 2018. Here is a list he posted on Facebook last week:

 

 

There are a few inaccuracies on this list*, but you get the idea: over 30 candidates plan to go for the glory, competing against only one incumbent (Hans Riemer).

In this field, Seth Grimes stands out. I have observed over the past 15 years as Grimes has evolved from a Takoma Park gadfly (when he quite rightly called out the city government for poor management) to a wise contributor on public affairs locally and beyond. As a member of the Takoma Park City Council, Grimes got to know well the people and processes of Rockville. His policy line is consistently progressive, from anti-poverty (he serves on the board of Shepherd’s Table) to the environment. He is also one of three visionary founders and leaders of the Takoma Park Mobilization, formed in mid-November to counter the Trump agenda and now including over 1,000 activists. Like Elrich, Grimes is a smart and extremely well-informed student of local politics. Running for the council is a logical step for Grimes – his level of preparation and commitment to progressive values distinguishes him among the dozens of other candidates. I am proud to endorse Seth Grimes for county council.

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I don’t recognize most of the names on Bessel’s list and encourage them to introduce themselves to me via an email to lhv@kberner.us.

I have recently met some of the candidates in the context of progressive politics, such as the Politics 101 workshop sponsored by Our Revolution and Progressive Neighbors in May. This list includes (in alphabetical order): Julian Haffner, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm. I can see that these three are explicitly progressive, but I don’t know any of them well enough yet to declare early support for them.

Rebecca Smondrowski currently serves on the school board and has a good reputation among progressives. I’m also eager to learn more about her.

Diana Conway has been an influential progressive activist, which makes me wonder why her husband, Bill Conway is running, instead of her. I wouldn’t blame one spouse for the other spouse’s opinions or work, but neither will I automatically give Bill credit for Diana’s. Count this as another candidacy I’m intrigued about.

I know Cherri Branson’s name from her brief tenure on the Council in 2013-14, when she took the place of Valerie Ervin as the District 5 rep, after the latter got bored with the job and quit. Unfortunately, what most struck me at the time was Branson’s endorsement (along with Ervin) of the eminently unqualified and ethically challenged Chris Barclay to take the seat in 2014. I have heard good reviews of Branson’s work on Leggett’s staff since then and am open to learning more to overcome that first impression.

Evan Glass is a smart and nice guy. But he chose to run for D5 in 2014 as a Chamber of Commerce candidate, backed by all the big developers. There was also an arrogant tinge to his campaign that turned me off (he claimed that the transit center debacle woudn’t have happened if only he had been on the council). Since that time, Glass has led the Silver Spring youth education organization Gandhi Brigade: noble work, indeed. As with Branson, my mind is open to being reintroduced to Glass this time around.

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Candidates to oppose. . .

This blog has devoted considerable attention to Hans Riemer — I encourage you, Dear Reader, to search on his name in order to relive all the highlights. For those less hardy, here’s the summary of Riemer’s service to the county

  • began running for office before the paint was dry in his first Maryland domicile (following his move here from California in late 2005)
  • has used empty rhetoric to sound progressive, without actually leading on progressive policy
  • has championed relatively lightweight issues
  • has been less than forthright about his intentions and his record.

Riemer has never added up to much substantively. Yet, in 2010, he succeeded in deceiving experienced activists and naïve voters alike, with his pretty face, California cash (caché?), and ad nauseum repetition of the word “progressive.” Now we have another chance to show Reimer the door; voters would be fools not to take it.

Will Jawando certainly loves campaigning, joining his fourth contest (the other three were losses) since 2014.** Other than being a candidate, though, Jawando seems never to have done anything much for the community or the county.  Jawando is a smart and engaging fellow. He just doesn’t get that paid public service should be less a pursuit of personal glory, than the culmination of a previous do-good record – something earned, not acquired.

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Public Financing

As I learn more about county council candidates, I will look favorably on those who opt-in to public financing and unfavorably on those who self-finance (in effect, seeking to purchase their seat) or who rely on $4,000 checks from special interests (including from the development industry or public-employee unions).

I learned today on the Seventh State Blog, that Conway and Riemer have qualified for public financing.

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*The three from Bessel’s list whom I know or believe are not running for At-Large are Ukaih Busch (who has said so publicly), Bill Cook (who has declared for the D1 seat), and Jill Ortman-Fouse (who seems to have opted to remain on the school board).

**Jawando has previously run for MD D20 state delegate (2014), Congress from MD D8 (against Jamie Raskin, 2016), and for appointment to the D20 house seat that opened when Will Smith was appointed to Raskin’s seat in the state senate (2016).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

 

01.06.17 Lorig Charkoudian for D20 Delegate

January 6, 2017

Jamie Raskin’s election to Congress in November kicked off a chain of events: first the need to fill his seat in the Maryland Senate and then, when sitting delegate Will Smith was appointed in Raskin’s place, the need fill that seat. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will make that appointment this coming Monday, January 9. To influence their selection, please write to all their members (see below) before Monday evening.

Last night, I attended a candidate forum in Silver Spring, sponsored by the MCDCC, Progressive Neighbors, and other organizations. The forum was an opportunity for six candidates to make their cases. (Information about five of the six candidates can be found on the MCDCC website – Yvette Butler is inexplicably missing.)

The good news is that D20 has some great talent ready to serve: five of the six candidates would most likely do a fine job in the role (and the sixth might stand out in a less talented field). And all of them have a clear record of community service (something that has been sorely lacking in recent local candidates for office (e.g., David Trone, Kathleen Matthews, and Will Jawando).

Lorig Charkoudian was the clear winner last night. She was the most articulate of the candidates, able to respond quickly and clearly to everything tossed her way, with barely an “um” to be heard. What was most impressive about Charkoudian was her wealth of experience writing and promoting legislation (she is clearly the hit-the-ground-running candidate). She also was able to address, with specifics, topics well beyond her core expertise in criminal-justice reform and conflict mediation, things like environmental legislation, food security, and economic justice.

Jheanelle Wilkins, gets an honorable mention. She also has legislative experience, is able to articulate her positions clearly, and displayed knowledge across range of policy topics. Unfortunately, Wilkins is a member of the very MCDCC that will make this appointment. This represents an unacceptable conflict of interest. In fact, I intend to push publicly for the Central Committee to bar its current members from seeking office in the future.

Also, I was disturbed by Wilkins’s willingness to throw marijuana legalization under the bus unless the licenses for medical marijuana growers are distributed more fairly (i.e,. awarding licenses to one or more African American firms). I agree with her that the licensing process has been discriminatory (and embarrassing), but holding something good hostage to the repair of something bad is nuts. Would Wilkins be more devoted to such games of chicken than to policymaking?

Darian Unger also has some experience in drafting and pushing legislation. His service with Progressive Neighbors and as a volunteer firefighter is impressive and there is no question about his desire to serve. Just the same, his expertise seems narrower than some of the others, focusing mostly on the environment and civil liberties (topics dear to my heart). Unger seems to get easily tongue tied (I have heard him speak several times) and has a bothersome tendency to cross from policy advocacy to self-promotion. (This is a subtle point and I would understand if others found it less disturbing than I do.)  Just as in the case of Wilkins’s service on the MCDCC, I will be disturbed if Progress Neighbors endorses Unger.

Daniel Koroma and Yvette Butler impress with long records of passionate community service. But in comparison to the others, they seem less prepared to enter the legislative fray and less knowledgeable across a range of issues. I’m also a stickler for candidates’ abiding by the time limits set in candidate forums. Butler’s opening statement was past the 2-minute mark and seemed far from complete when she had to be asked to cease several times before complying. This being the second forum in as many days, one would think she would have learned in the first session and edited her statement, accordingly.

Amy Cress is the least prepared of the of the bunch and seems solely focused on gun control and special-needs education.

Three of the candidates knew me prior to getting into this race: Charkoudian, Unger, and Wilkens. Of these, only Charkoudian asked for my support. I count this against the other two, not because my ego needs that kind of stroking, but rather because an essential legislative skill is the ability to recognize and mobilize supporters. If candidates fail to ask for support when they are running, I wonder whom they will forget to call once they are in office. (To be fair, Wilkins only knows me from my letter to the Central Committee last month regarding the senate appointment. The fact that she responded to me then is a plus; the fact that she didn’t keep my contact info or note that I’m an activist worthy of being cultivated is a minus.)

Final note: I don’t know why, but candidate forums seem always to be poorly managed. I remember when a moderator at a Democratic Party forum few years ago thought it would be a good idea to measure time limits using an analog kitchen timer (rather than digital means). I’ve seen Progressive Neighbors fail more than once to set up coherent processes for Q&A. The big failure last night was having the moderator pose three questions at a time (in multiple rounds) to the candidates and giving each candidate only one minute to answer – and, sometimes, the three questions had nothing to do with each other. Not a single candidate was able to address all three questions every time and the audience was cheated out of more thoughtful replies by the candidates.

I suggest that no organization should sponsor or moderate candidate forums without serious forethought and talented moderators.

Please write to all members of the MDCC to support Lorig Charkoudian (I have omitted Wilkins from this list for obvious reasons). You do not have to write an essay – simply stating your view is enough. Here’s the list to write to:

@2017 Keith Berner

12.04.16 David Moon for D20 Senate – deadline is December 7 to contact Central Committee

December 3, 2016

Maryland District 20 voters are thrilled to be sending Jamie Raskin, to Congress to take on the Trumpian forces of darkness. Raskin’s elevation leaves a senate vacancy that will be filled by a decision of the Montgomery Democratic Central Committee (MDCC) when they meet on Wednesday, December 7.

It is unfortunate that state law does not allow us to directly elect Raskin’s replacement: any appointment process is not exactly (small-d) democratic, but this is the process we’re stuck with. It seems to me that the most democratic solution would be to appoint someone who has already won D20 votes, namely one of our three elected state delegates. David Moon and Will Smith are actively campaigning for the seat (while Sheila Hixson has, unsurprisingly, decided to hold on to her chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates). Both Moon and Smith have had impressive records as freshmen delegates. Both are strong progressives and have worked well with Hixson and Raskin.

I am endorsing Moon for Senate mostly because I see him as a determined progressive fighter in Raskin’s tradition, while Smith is somewhat more of a go-along-to-get-along Democrat that is more common in the MD legislature. Also, I have been significantly more impressed with Moon’s responsiveness to and engagement with district residents than Smith’s. (Smith has made several appointments to meet with me and broken every single one at the last minute.)

I urge you to write to all members of the MDCC immediately to indicate your endorsement. See below for more details.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues Moon has taken on:

  • Special elections to fill statewide vacancies: Just as D20 voters are frustrated by the lack of a chance to vote on Raskin’s replacement, so would we be if there were vacancies for US Senate, Attorney General, Comptroller. Under law, the governor would have had the right to name replacements, but Moon successfully got the issue on this year’s ballot (as Question 1) and it passed easily, meaning future vacancies will be filled by voters.
  • Helping homeless residents obtain birth certificates
  • Reining in mass incarceration and generally opposing the disastrous “war on drugs”
  • Early release of sick inmates
  • Protecting women’s pay equity
  • Reforming the investigative process in cases of police brutality
  • Reducing carbon emissions
  • Promoting transparency in rape investigations
  • Working to welcome refugees in Maryland
  • Fighting to maintain Metro service hours.

An argument has been floated that neither Moon, nor Smith should be appointed because it would give the selected individual incumbent power in the 2018 election. Those touting this position claim it would be more democratic to appoint someone for a two-year period who has not ever won an election in our district. I don’t buy it – as imperfect as the current system is, I believe the only way to respect voters is to select someone they have already supported.

If Moon or Smith is selected this week, that will open a D20 seat in the House of Delegates and the MDCC appointment process will start all over again. The following people should not be considered for that seat:

  • Valerie Ervin quit her last public office (MoCo Council D5) two years early because her ambition and arrogance led her to believe she would be a shoo-in for the county executive race (Ike Leggett’s decision to run again in 2014 killed her plans). Then she dropped out of an abortive race against Raskin for Congress after only two months, with a bitter attack on a political process she felt was uniquely stacked against her. She blamed everyone but herself, while a healthy number of other candidates made it all the way to April. Ervin has a record of anger and divisiveness, including a willingness to attack local progressives. If Ervin were appointed to represent us, we could count on her spending most of her time in office figuring out how to move up the political ladder.
  • Will Jawando has run twice for local seats (for state delegate in 2014 and against Raskin for Congress), losing badly each time. He has never done any on-the-ground work in our area and seems to think that his brief service as a White House staffer makes up for having no local record. I’d love to see Jawando work on something that benefits district residents before he tries again for political office.
  • Jonathan Shurberg is a very capable local lawyer who has done a ton of work for progressive causes and individuals in need. Just the same, he must have set a record for dollars spent per vote in his unsuccessful race against Moon and Smith for delegate in 2014. I endorsed his run at that time, but he did so badly in the final result that any appointment to office would be in violation of district voters’ clear preferences. Most recently, Shurberg used his blog to attack Raskin’s candidacy for Congress, while carrying water for megabucks, pro-corporate Kathleen Matthews and David Trone.

Please write to all members of the MDCC to support David Moon and to oppose appointment of anyone who has not previously been elected in our district. You do not have to write an essay – simply stating your view is enough. Here’s the list to write to:

©2016 Keith Berner

 

 

 

04.27.16 Schadenfreude (election wrap-up)

April 27, 2016

Before I go negative, I want to acknowledge Jamie Raskin’s extremely important victory yesterday. His win not only sends a substantively excellent man to Congress. It also demonstrates that – at least in this district and this year – money can’t purchase victory. Passion, vision, and grassroots organizing won the day. Everyone in MD-8 can be proud of this result!

Now to my Schadenfreude* list:

  1. Washington Post: Both the editors and MoCo political correspondent, Bill Turque, did their best to discredit Raskin as a left-wing extremist. It’s downright fun to annoy the big-business-obsessed Post by voting for progressives who scare them.
  1. David Trone: The man spent over $12-million to sully the electoral process in our district, after he went around the country delivering over $150k to right-wing Republicans in order to “buy access” (his words), ala Donald Trump. It’s sad to think that he didn’t bankrupt himself in the process of this campaign, but one can hope he’ll never try this again.
  1. Kathleen Matthews: Without a public-policy or community-service background, this corporate shill became the most heavily PAC-funded congressional candidate in the country. After having overseen Marriott’s opposition to labor and $1-3/4 million in contributions to Republicans, Matthews tried to play on her husband’s connections (Chris Matthews is the star of Hardball) and her gender to steal our district. Her distant third-place finish should send her right back to the corporate world.
  1. Jonathan Shurberg of Maryland Scramble: The overwhelming majority of Shurberg’s posts are “just the facts”: links to primary sources, scans of candidate mailings, and the like. These are generally offered without commentary and make Scramble is a very useful blog, indeed. It’s the less frequent commentary that deserves criticism. In this race, Shurberg:
  • Excused Matthews’s and Trone’s lack of legislative background by pointing out that lots of members of Congress don’t have any (and what a great job they’re all doing, eh?). In defending the two moneybags, he also purposely ignored opponents’ arguments that neither had any background of public service.
  • Declared the money from one’s pockets or from corporate PACs to be no dirtier than money raised in small dollar amounts from inside Maryland and our district. Shurberg went after Matthews’s opponents for citing the difference and, thereby, demonstrated a (newly found?) love of big money in politics.
  • Forgave Matthews’s responsibility for Marriott contributions to GOP candidates and office holders
  • Explained away Matthews’s money from Hardball guests
  • Repeatedly attacked Raskin and his supporters in a tone that can only be described as mocking, gleeful, and morally superior. It is well known the Shurberg has never forgiven Raskin for the 2014 state delegate race, when Raskin didn’t endorse Shurberg. It was still remarkable that Shurberg couldn’t suppress his contempt borne of personal hurt.
  • Huddled with Kathleen Matthews during the entire J Street annual gala last week.

Clearly Shurberg wanted Raskin not only to lose, but to be embarrassed. He seemed to want Matthews to win (he certainly found ways to excuse nearly everything about her that progressives objected to) but wasn’t honest enough to come right out and endorse her. If Shurberg used to be a progressive, he sure sold out those values in this race and most likely did so in a fit of personal pique. The Progressive Neighbors Steering Committee should take note and remove him from their membership.

  1. The giant PACs and bigwigs who funded Matthews’s campaign: Money down the drain. Hah-hah! (sound file)
  1. Emily’s List: Sorry, gender isn’t everything. I get why Emily’s list doesn’t fund men. But they ought to be selective about the fights they pick. This year in Maryland, their outsized support of Kathleen Matthews and Donna Edwards put them on the wrong side of two men (Raskin and Chris Van Hollen) who have impeccable records on women’s issues. Again, money down the drain. And – in this case – money that could have better used elsewhere.

I’m really sad about how poorly Kumar Barve did in yesterday’s election (a little over 2%). In a race where all the oxygen was not sucked up by Trone and Matthews, this serious, accomplished legislator would have gotten a lot more attention. I still would have endorsed and worked for Raskin, but Barve was my clear second choice and I hope he will continue serving the public good. (I also feel sad for Ana Sol Gutierrez [5.5%], another good person.)

I can’t quite put Will Jawando (<5%) on my Schadenfreude list, because he’s not a bad guy (except for that Big Pharma money he took). But it would be nice if he would do some work in our area before he decides to run for another seat (he ran for state delegate in 2014 and lost badly). Simply having a story that is superficially similar to Barack Obama’s doesn’t really qualify him for office.

Final comment: If one accepts the probability that Trone and Matthews were fighting against each other for the same set of pro-business, moderate Democrats, we can thank Trone for helping Raskin win.

*My writing Schadenfreude with a capital “S” is not a symptom of the widespread disease I call “Random Capitalization Syndrome”; rather it is true to German grammar, where all nouns are capitalized. For more random linguistic tips or a dose of severe grammatical discipline, feel free to contact your blogger any time.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.17.16 Jamie Raskin for Congress

April 17, 2016

Jamie Raskin’s record of accomplishment is astounding. Let’s start with his 2006 campaign for the Maryland Senate from District 20. (Beginning there gives short shrift to Raskin’s career as a nationally respected professor of constitutional law at American University.) In launching the effort, Raskin not only took on an entrenched incumbent, Ida Reuben, who had been serving a decidedly anti-progressive party machine and big-business interests for decades. He also purposely took on a long history indifference to state politics by D-20 voters.

While our district is home to some of the most progressive voters in the country, many of our neighbors had only been focused on national and international politics. Year after year, Ida Reuben and her ilk represented us in Annapolis, keeping Maryland blue, but hardly better than center-right. Raskin not only trounced Reuben thoroughly (2 to 1) in a race he was supposed to lose. He also carried Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur with him as state delegates, in a progressive sweep. D-20’s powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sheila Hixson, got with the program, moving from cautious centrism to forceful progressive leadership, with Raskin as a guide and partner.

Jamie Raskin’s election, then, was not only about a single senate seat. He consciously sought to create a movement, providing the vision and voice that have given D-20 and our values the power we lacked in Maryland. This is leadership defined.

The list of legislation passed with Raskin’s authorship, contribution, co-sponsorship, or advocacy is too long to recount here. Same-sex marriage, gun control, environmental regulation and remediation, economic justice, campaign finance reform. Not everything Raskin has touched has become law. (There is more work to do in a state that remains far more conservative than its Democratic reputation implies). But so many laws would never have seen the light of day or gotten to victory without him in the trenches.

Raskin’s most recent success is his “Noah’s Law” the toughest anti-drunk driving measure in the country, which passed in the just-concluded legislative session, overcoming years of liquor-lobby opposition.

Another element of Jamie Raskin’s leadership is his compelling oratory. He generates enthusiasm and motivates action by walking into a room and opening his mouth. The legions of passionate volunteers who have served in his campaigns demonstrate this. In fact, it is the door-knockers and phone-callers who have made Raskin viable against two opposing campaigns flush with millions of dollars of dirty money. (Kathleen Matthews is the most heavily corporate-PAC funded congressional candidate in the country. David Trone has spent a completely mind-boggling $9.1 million in a blatant attempt to purchase personal glory.)

Indeed, the contrast could not be starker between Raskin, whose life has been dedicated to public service and the two moneybags candidates who have served only themselves and their business interests.

I have written previously about these birds of a feather, both of whom cared so little about policy and politics – prior to seeking their own renown in Congress – that they didn’t bother to vote in two of the last three primaries. Each has been responsible for massive contributions to far-right GOP candidates and officeholders around the country (see Matthews and Trone). Both claim a moral pass on this, because throwing money to bad guys in a corrupt system was what they had to do for business.

There is no moral exemption for helping bad guys in order to enrich yourself or your corporate masters. If you send money to the GOP, you are backing GOP policies, period. While Jamie Raskin has been working hard every day to clean up campaign corruption, Kathleen Matthews and David Trone are its very embodiment.

Your blogger is deeply offended by the mere presence of Matthews and Trone in this race. Their progressive rhetoric is superficial. Their lack of community service reveals their selfishness. Should either be elected, the best a progressive voter could expect would be general support for a Democratic agenda, without any leadership for progressive values. And we could expect both to advocate for the status quo regarding the role of big, corrupting money in our broken democracy.

Jamie Raskin is not the only worthy candidate for Congress in MD-8. Kumar Barve (D-17) has served honorably in the Maryland Senate, making a name for himself as an environmental leader, among other things. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) has been a reliable progressive vote in the House. But both lack Raskin’s power and results. Gutierrez seems in this race to be running solely on her Latina identity, a worthy consideration, but hardly sufficient to justify your vote.

Will Jawando is smart, articulate, and progressive. But he is tainted by having taken Big Pharma money, has provided little or no community service in the area, and seems to offer only his ethnic identity (as an African American) and brief, barely-relevant service in the Obama White House as rationales for his campaign.

Former State Department official Joel Rubin has contributed positively to the race, mostly by criticizing Matthews and Trone.

Coverage of this campaign would not be complete without commenting on pernicious role played by the Washington Post. It is hardly a surprise that the virulently pro-corporate, anti-union newspaper endorsed Matthews – they can count on her to do its bidding and serve its interests, if not explicitly, then certainly in style and attitude. (Another indication of Matthews’s likely fealty to big business if she were elected is her endorsement by former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, the prince of pavement.)

Even though the Post acknowledges that there is hardly an iota of stated policy difference among the candidates, it condemns Raskin for being “doctrinaire.” This flies in the face of his success in building bridges, not only across Maryland’s partisan divide, but also within the Democratic Party. (Raskin has managed to create an enduring alliance with hardly progressive Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller [D-27], a remarkable feat.)

The Post’s influence is more insidious than its editorials. While sole Montgomery County political reporter Bill Turque has done some good reporting on the race. He has also ignored Raskin (at times) or damned him with right-wing language that clearly reflects the Post’s editorial bias.

Jamie Raskin has an extremely bright future, not only as a movement leader, but as an effective legislator who will serve the public good for decades. And if Raskin ever decides to move on from legislating, look for him to serve in the judiciary or in a future Democratic administration.

Maryland D-8 voters must show we cannot be bought. We owe it not only to ourselves but to the country to keep Jamie Raskin on an upward trajectory in service to all of us.

©2106 Keith Berner

01.30.16 WaPo’s fluff on MD-8 race ignores Raskin

January 30, 2016

Full disclosure: I support Jamie Raskin for Congress, but am not formally affiliated with his campaign.

The Washington Post’s sole reporter on Montgomery County politics, Bill Turque, recently covered a Maryland District 8 congressional-candidate forum. Bless Bill: he wanted to shine a little light on all nine forum participants. But in taking an elementary-school-everybody’s-in approach to this important race, he forgot about journalism – the “balance” he seemed to be striving for was (1) unbalanced and (2) vapid.

Ok, it was novel to have GOP candidates present, in a race where a Democrat is 99% certain to win. Hence the seven paragraphs (out of 19) devoted to the GOP. Two of those were about a Democrat, Liz Matory, who switched parties in a fit of rage over the fact that no one anointed fellow-African American Valerie Ervin the automatic winner last summer. (Ervin quit the race in September, issuing a bitter screed about the lack of deference she got.)

Turque devoted two paragraphs to Will Jawando, who is bright and compelling for sure, but who has little chance of winning and is (at least according to this article) running solely on the fact that, as an African American, he would diversify our representation. (I expect that Jawando has more to say than Turque gives him credit for.)

Next Turque spends two paragraphs on one of the true heavy hitters in the race (along with Jamie Raskin): Kathleen Matthews. He actually gives her a sentence on policy positions (all of which are no-brainers for Democrats) before turning, again, to identity politics (Matthews: “We need more women in Congress.”) There’s nary a word on Matthews’s relevant experience (or lack thereof: she doesn’t have any) or previous service to the district (or lack thereof: she doesn’t have any).

Then, more identity politics: Ana-Sol Gutierrez as Salvadoran American and Kumar Barve, who would be the first Asian American member of Congress from Maryland (I fail to see the relevance in the age of Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal). Barve does earn a wee bit of substantive coverage from Turque for the candidate’s claims of business acumen.

Of course, to the extent that identity drivel is what the campaigns are dishing, a reporter can’t be blamed for reporting it. But one gets the overwhelming sense that Turque just doesn’t care about much else.

The outrage of this fluff piece is its treatment of Jamie Raskin, a clear leader in the race, based on fundraising, volunteers, and endorsements alone. Raskin runs leagues ahead of all the others in terms of legislative effectiveness (Barve and Gutierrez are the only other ones with legislative experience at all). If it were not for personal millions, Matthews and (new candidate) David Trone would hardly be irrelevant, and this might be a Raskin-Barve competition.

What did Turque have to say about Raskin? Just this: “Raskin . . . pledged to return any overdue books.” Huh? A man serves as a key leader in the MD legislature for years, is a constitutional scholar, and — at least in Takoma Park and Silver Spring — has more visibility in the race than anyone else, and that’s all Turque can find to say?

If this is what the Washington Post and Bill Turque call journalism, they should be as embarrassed as we are for them. Really, the only game in town for coverage of MoCo politics these days is the Seventh State blog. That’s where to turn for serious analysis, as opposed to bake-sale fluff.

PS. The photo accompanying the article features Jawando, includes six others, and (you got it) omits Raskin.

©2016 Keith Berner

06.21.14 Darian Unger’s grassroots bonafides

June 21, 2014

Last week, I asked whether Darian Unger (candidate for MD D20 delegate) is as grassroots as he appears, after I received five mailings from him in five days. Unger sent me a note pushing back. Among other things, he pointed out to me:

  • He is the only candidate doing $5 per person ($15 per family) fundraisers, while refusing corporate donations
  • He had planned to do eight mailers over three months, but the post office botched up that distribution by dumping all the mail pieces at once (that is a standard hazard of bulk-mail)
  • He is being massively outspent by others.

Unger is correct in raising these points. Among the viable candidates (Hixson, Jawando, Moon, Shurberg, Smith, Unger) Unger’s campaign is certainly near the bottom in expenditures and near the top in terms of mobilizing small donors. (I’m going on gut sense here. Unger pointed me to the Board of Elections site to research the actual data, but I tried and can’t make any sense of what I found there. This is a symptom of why Maryland is among the worst states nationally for campaign finance transparency and good governance.)

©2014 Keith Berner